I’ve been working with a new writer recently. We talk regularly about the nuts and bolts of how to write, what it means to shape a story, about character creation and plot structure and all the bits and bobs of storytelling. I often ask them to prepare a few questions for me so we have a topic to dig into when we chat. As part of this work, a few weeks ago they asked where I get story ideas from.
This is one of the most difficult questions for an author to answer, not because they don’t know, but because the answer is rather esoteric and obtuse when an author tries to quantify it and explain it to someone else.
Stories come from various places. Sometimes there is a contrived idea that forms from a desire to write something. A particular assignment or theme might be offered up by someone else and and author will write to spec.
But more often than not, when it comes to the stories that resonate the most with others, the origins are difficult to pin down. They come from a mixture of inspiration and an esoteric knowing and they’re written from a deep desire and need to share this story with others.
These stories come from deep within, from all around, and various places in between. Experience, old memories, idle imaginings, music, art, movies, all might contain a spark of something new for an author. Even so, at the end of the day, the story must be written.
Flights of fancy, deep explorations of various topics and themes, escapism, plumbing the depths of our emotions, all feed an author’s compost heap of imagination. We turn detritus into fertile soil to grow new stories. This is especially true with speculative fiction, where through this lens of the impossible we’re able to understand ourselves and the world around us a little better.
It’s been said by some that ideas come from a little mail order place in Poughkeepsie, NY. As difficult as inspiration has always been to pin down that’s as good an answer as I’ve seen, if a bit cheeky. However, please do not mistake the lack of an author’s ability to pinpoint their source of inspiration as a lack in their abilities or understanding of their craft. This loss of words means that there’s still creative force in the world, a force that helps us understand our connection to the life all around us and to the emotions and experiences of others.
The stories within this issue are things of joy and wonder and beauty and yes, sadness and difficulties, too. They’re human stories. They’re personal stories. They’re stories the authors felt needed to be told and needed to be shared and they couldn’t not write them. I hope you find something within them that you can’t quite put into words either.